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Australian senator plans motion to recognise Chinese genocide of Uyghurs

An Australian senator has drafted a motion that aims to get Australian parliamentarians to agree on China and its genocidal policies towards the Uyghurs in Xinjiang province. [1]

The independent senator, Rex Patrick, is seeking to follow the lead of countries such as the US, Canada, and the Netherlands in declaring that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is committing genocide in its continued persecution of the Uyghur Muslims. [2] [3] [4]

Senator Patrick hopes that the proposed vote will be approved by the Senate to confirm the understanding “that the PRC’s treatment of the Uighurs in Xinjiang constitutes the crime of genocide”. [1]

In addition, Patrick’s motion calls on the Chinese leadership to,

“…immediately end torture and abuse in detention centres; abolish its system of mass internment camps, house arrest and forced labour; cease all coercive population control measures; and end the persecution of Uighurs and other religious and ethnic minorities in Xinjiang and elsewhere in China”. [1]

The Australian federal government has not gone so far as to publicly state that China is engaging in genocide, but the Australian Foreign Affairs Minister, Marise Payne, recently noted that there have been “some very horrific reports, particularly around forced labour, around re-education camps, allegations in relation to the systematic torture and abuse of women” [1]

This proposed motion is by no means the first step by Senator Patrick in dealing with the Uyghur issue. In September 2020, shortly after the US government and Congress agreed that China has been engaging in genocide against the Uyghurs, Patrick argued that “if the Ministers for Foreign Affairs and Trade do not move quickly,” he would “introduce a Private Senators’ Bill to force a detailed examination of this issue and a response from the Government.”

Senator Patrick said on 25th September 2020:

“The Australian Parliament has expressed strong support for international efforts to suppress modern slavery… Consistent with that the Australian Government needs to take a strong stand against the well documented abuse of hundreds of thousands of Uyghur people in Xinjiang.”

“It would be a human rights disgrace if Australia, under our free trade agreement with China, turned a blind eye to profiteering from what amounts to slave labour.”

“More than one million people have been rounded up and put in massive internment camps across Xinjiang. Mass surveillance, restrictions on free movement, and widespread persecution of the Uyghur people have been confirmed beyond doubt.” [5]

The Australian government was indeed slow in taking action, so on 8th December 2020, Senator Patrick put forth a bill preventing the import of “any product that originates from Xinjiang” along with barring any such goods that reach the Australian border from inward travel. They “will not be permitted to be landed here in Australia…” said Patrick. [6]

The bill, entitled Customs Amendment (Banning Goods Produced By Uyghur Forced Labour) Bill 2020, has gone through its first and second reading, and is currently at the committee stage being reviewed by the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee, which will deliver its report by 12th May later this year. [7]

In strongly advocating for the bill, Senator Patrick also set up an online petition on his website with the following accompanying statement:

“The Government must ban the importation of products from Xinjiang and other parts of China that are produced in whole or part by forced labour.”

“The systematic oppression of the Uyghur people by the Chinese Government is undeniable, and the exploitation of detained Uyghurs as a captive labour force is clear. More than one million people have been rounded up and put in massive internment camps across Xinjiang. Mass surveillance, restrictions on free movement, and widespread persecution of the Uyghur people have been confirmed beyond doubt.”

“We must take a strong stand against the well documented abuse of hundreds of thousands of Uyghur people in Xinjiang. It would be a human rights disgrace if Australia, under our free trade agreement with China, turned a blind eye to profiteering from what amounts to slave labour.” [8]

Further to Senator Patrick’s ongoing efforts to address the Uyghur issue in the federal legislature, Human Rights Watch (HRW) also piled pressure on the government to take decisive action in a February submission to the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee.

Australia Director at HRW, Elaine Pearson, argued:

“There are credible complaints of forced labor of Uyghur and other Muslim minorities from Xinjiang supported by accounts from former detainees, satellite imagery, and leaked Chinese government documents… Australia should join other countries to authorize the suspension of imported goods made with forced labor from Xinjiang and elsewhere.” [9]

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Notes:

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/mar/02/australian-senator-calls-to-recognise-chinas-treatment-of-uighurs-as-genocide

[2] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-55723522

[3] https://www.islam21c.com/news-views/canadian-parliament-agrees-uyghur-oppression-amounts-to-genocide/

[4] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-netherlands-china-uighurs-idUSKBN2AP2CI

[5] https://www.rexpatrick.com.au/australia_must_ban_products_produced_by_uyghur_forced_labour

[6] https://www.sbs.com.au/news/uighurs-in-australia-hope-a-new-bill-banning-imports-from-china-s-xinjiang-region-will-become-law

[7] https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Bills_Legislation/Bills_Search_Results/Result?bId=s1284

[8] https://www.rexpatrick.com.au/stop_modern_slavery

[9] https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/02/08/australia-combat-forced-labor-chinas-uyghurs#

The views expressed on Islam21c and its connected channels do not necessarily represent the views of the organisation.

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